All the Ways Social Media is Affecting Your Mental Health
This article was written by Maxwell Barna and originally published on Highsnobiety.
The internet has given us something extraordinary. At the touch of a button, we can know where the nearest bars and restaurants are. We have the answers to all the questions we could ever ask in the palms of our hands. We can talk to friends and family from thousands of miles away in real time, without having to leave the comfort of our bedrooms. We know what our friends from high school are doing, how we feel about politics, and what people we barely know ate for dinner — all at the click of a mouse or tap of an app icon.
If you were to ask the average person, they’d probably tell you the world has never before been connected like it is now.
But for all the praise we give social media, there’s more to it than meets the eye and not all of it is good. When was the last time you had lunch with a friend without one of you checking your email or your Instagram feed? When you’re wondering what your friends back home are up to, do you pick up the phone and call, or do you simply check their snap stories?
At the end of the day, it’s an important conversation to have, and at the root of it is the question: have inventions like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram put us in touch with each other in ways we never thought possible, or is it possible that these incredible inventions are actually harming our personal development and stunting our social growth?
Well it turns out social media is pretty shitty, according to hundreds of scientific and psychological studies. Here below you’ll find a roundup of all the ways social media is affecting your health.
It Creates Unrealistic Expectations About Life
This one is shocking to absolutely no one, but social media—the things we see in places like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—is often a window into exaggerated and even misleading versions of peoples’ lives. It’s nothing new; people have postured about their day-to-day extravagance since man created extravagancies.
What is interesting—and troubling—is that the way we see others behaving on social media is starting to have real-world impact on the ways we behave. A study surveyed people across the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy and found that over 66 percent of the people surveyed make posts on social media designed to make it look like their lives are more interesting and adventure-filled than they actually are.
What’s worse is that of the British people who took the survey, over 52 percent of them said they post pictures specifically to make their friends and families jealous. And other studies have found that once we set those bars for ourselves, we distort our self-images and self-worth until we realize we can’t live up to what we’ve created about ourselves on the Internet. It’s a vicious cycle.
It Makes Us Sadder
This one is a little less obvious, especially if you’re like us and 90 percent of your social media feed is sneakers, memes and animal pics—things that make us happy.
And for all intents and purposes, that’s what we expect from social media. We go there when we’re stressed-out or bored, then scroll through our various feeds looking for a momentary reprieve from the real world going on around us. That doesn’t sound too bad on the surface, but its side effects can be nothing short of dangerous.
While social media definitely plays at least a somewhat beneficial role in helping maintain our psychological well being, the studies are becoming increasingly clear: these “social connections” actually increase our mental anxieties and stress.
One study from a research team at UC San Diego found that the more people use Facebook over time, the more likely users are to experience negative mental health and negative life satisfaction. Another studyconducted by the Young Health Movement and the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed found that 14 to 24-year-olds believe that social media is worsening bullying, body image anxiety, and feelings of depression and loneliness. Instagram was found to be the worst offender.
It seems to be that while things are all good when our faces are tucked deep into our screens — once we put our phones away and pick our heads up, coping becomes even more difficult.
It Makes Us Irrationally Jealous
This is one we’re probably all guilty of. Derrick from high school that you never thought was going to go anywhere in life has somehow managed to make a living traveling the world and experiencing the finer things in life — all through a glorious set of perfectly curated filters.
But you? You work in an office. You get two vacations a year—every year—and you usually spend them in bed, hiding away from the world outside for a couple days. Ugh. Fuck Derrick.
That’s how it starts. And then Derrick’s incessant traveling turns into Mark’s handsome baby boy, Jen from sales’ new BMW and Jerome’s smokin’ hot new girlfriend. Suddenly, your life—your mid-level marketing gig, your Toyota Corolla, Stubbles (your cat)—ain’t shit. Or so it seems, at least.
If that analogy cut some of you a little deep (it probably didn’t, I know), well you’re not alone. A study conducted last year by Kaspersky Lab showed that the more people use social media, the more jealous they become of their peers. According to the study, nearly 60 percent of participants said they viewed at least one friend as having a better life than them based solely on their social media presence, and almost half of them said they’ve been upset after viewing photos of a friend’s life event. A quarter of participants said they feel jealous if they see a friend like someone else’s post and not theirs.
It Can Ruin Relationships
If you’re not careful, social media can ruins relationships. And I’m not just talking about those couples we can’t stand that do everything together for the ‘Gram.
A study from researchers at the University of Michigan examined the association between attachment insecurity and electronic intrusion (unhealthy stalking of peoples’ significant others using social media). The researchers found that, in high schoolers, higher levels of attachment anxiety (and trust issues) were associated with more frequent use of electronic intrusion.
In regular people terms, it means that the more you use social media, the more likely you are to be too far up your significant other’s ass, and—shocker—the less likely you are to trust one another.
It’s not just in teenagers, of course. Another study, published in Psychology Today, explored the relationship between people in relationships, their usage of Facebook and the frequency of Facebook-related conflicts. Out of 205 participants, they, too, noticed a correlation between Facebook use and Facebook-related conflict. They also found a noticeable relationship between Facebook-related conflict and negative relationship outcomes.
It’s Highly Addictive
On top of everything else, the cherry on the cake, the pièce de résistance, is the fact that research also demonstrates that no matter how shitty it makes us feel, how negatively it affects our relationships and how much it actually affects our everyday lives, we’re still addicted to it.
Like, we’re literally addicted to it. Worse still, we’re addicted to it because its creators specifically designed them to be addictive. Even now, when we’re more conscious of it than ever before, it’s still not getting better. In fact, it’s so bad that a place like The Center for Internet Addiction actually exists.
That all sounds crazy, until you realize that there are billions of social network users worldwide, over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and 70 million photos are uploaded to Instagram every damn day.
We present these social platforms as extensions of ourselves, and in the process we use them for our own personal validation, to explore our fear of missing out, to compare ourselves to others, to feed our egos, etc. We love it, and the more popular it gets, the deeper into the rabbit hole we go.
It looks like all the funny kitten videos in the world won’t be enough to fix the damage we’re doing.